Definition of cell in English:



  • 1A small room in which a prisoner is locked up or in which a monk or nun sleeps.

    ‘the authorities locked all remaining inmates in their cells’
    • ‘He was a man who delighted in escaping from the business of life into his scriptoriolum - a small library attached to his monastic cell.’
    • ‘So what that means is that he's locked up at night in a prison cell on his own, so that's solitary confinement.’
    • ‘Former inmates lead you through prison cells and tell you powerful stories about the routines and punishments they endured during their captivity.’
    • ‘He was said to have been playing cards with a prison officer outside his cell when the prisoner came up and punched him.’
    • ‘As a result the Governor ordered a search of the prisoners and their cells to be carried out on Monday.’
    • ‘The security and observation regime is quite different, prisoners often sharing cells in conditions of close confinement.’
    • ‘Prison cells, hotel rooms, psychiatric hospitals, nursing homes and hospices are exempt from the ban.’
    • ‘There were four regular prison cells, one padded cell and two used for solitary confinement.’
    • ‘At 2pm on Tuesday last all 190 prisoners were locked in their cells as prison officers staged a one-hour walk-out.’
    • ‘The change of status would also mean that Tommy has to be transferred from a detention cell to a prison room, which he has to share with other convicts.’
    • ‘The monks' cells and rooms were carved inside the soft white limestone cliff.’
    • ‘The offenders have designed and painted artworks throughout the burgled room and in the prison cell.’
    • ‘Wilders has six body guards and has slept in a prison cell to protect himself against possible attacks.’
    • ‘Most prisoners share their cells with one other inmate.’
    • ‘Where will the Government put the inmates when all the police cells, court cells, and prisons are full?’
    • ‘Since the accommodation for visitors on Mount Athos is more than basic, we had to share one and the same cell in the monastery of Philotheu.’
    • ‘Rehabilitation had been neglected, Owers reported, with inmates locked in cells for 23 hours a day.’
    • ‘Copying the works of others protects the solitude of the monastic cell from more intrusive forms of ministry.’
    • ‘He was one of 10 convicted prisoners who escaped from the prison on June 8 after holding up prison warders at gunpoint and locking them in a cell.’
    • ‘Since 1980, nearly 300 indigenous people have died in custody in prison cells or police lockups.’
    dungeon, oubliette, lock-up, prison
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    1. 1.1historical A small monastery or nunnery dependent on a larger one.
      • ‘Late in the same century the site became a dependent cell of the Durham Benedictines.’
      • ‘Avebury subsequently attracted a monastic cell, and suffered attempts to destroy its standing stones.’
  • 2Biology
    The smallest structural and functional unit of an organism, which is typically microscopic and consists of cytoplasm and a nucleus enclosed in a membrane.

    • ‘The scientists then used test-tube experiments to show the virus could infect T cells under laboratory conditions.’
    • ‘Even mammals have nucleated red blood cells in their bone marrow.’
    • ‘When this occurs, the cytoplasm from the two cells fuses, but the nuclei remain separate and distinct.’
    • ‘The scientists also produced a continuously growing line of cultured embryonic germ cells.’
    • ‘The neoplastic epithelial cells were cuboidal and had round or oval nuclei and inconspicuous nucleoli.’
    1. 2.1An enclosed cavity in an organism.
      • ‘The plaque deposits did not form cell casts or polyhedra and did not penetrate into the cell cavities, but were an external deposit only.’
      compartment, cavity, hole, hollow, bay, chamber, slot, niche, section
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    2. 2.2A small compartment in a larger structure such as a honeycomb.
      • ‘The interior of a cell contains structures called organelles that can be compared to the organs in a body.’
      • ‘Then there's the honeycomb shades, so called because in profile they look like cells of a honeycomb strung together.’
      • ‘Once the honey is gooey enough, the bees seal off the cell of the honeycomb with a plug of wax.’
      • ‘She then deposits a little into a honeycomb cell, built and tilted upright, so that it won't spill.’
      compartment, cavity, hole, hollow, bay, chamber, slot, niche, section
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  • 3A small group forming a nucleus of political activity, typically a secret, subversive one.

    ‘terrorist cells’
    • ‘Every agent infiltrating a drug cartel is an agent who could be infiltrating a terrorist cell.’
    • ‘Drug cartels, terrorist cells, and guerilla movements all reproduce themselves as dictatorships in the end.’
    • ‘Disrupting terrorist cells is an important component of the government's overall counterterrorism efforts.’
    • ‘Much of the military training consisted of small groups gathering together in secret cells.’
    • ‘He has been linked to a terrorist cell in Hamburg and a flight training school in Florida.’
    • ‘They operate through autonomous cells, strict secrecy, and a refusal to engage the enemy's strength.’
    • ‘The Spanish press prior to 11 March reported major raids by the police against alleged terrorist cells and the seizure of guns and explosives.’
    • ‘They concluded that terrorist cells could send members on flights without any intention of hijacking the plane just to see whether or not members would be flagged.’
    • ‘Finally, there is a claim it was less a social club than a political cell.’
    • ‘It is an open secret now that the ISI has a political cell.’
    • ‘Tentatively we can say no to the activity of single cells and yes to that of assemblies.’
    • ‘The extortion then funds the further activities of the terror cell.’
    • ‘Four bombers blew themselves up but police are investigating whether another member of the terrorist cell is alive and on the run.’
    • ‘The Red Brigade is the terrorist cell, and mostly serves as the ‘bad guy’ of the film.’
    • ‘In Dewsbury, he gradually emerged as the probable ringleader of the terrorist cell.’
    • ‘With a computer and a connection to the Internet, an individual can do more damage than armed terrorist cells or small insurgent movements.’
    • ‘We should do everything we can to disrupt and destroy any cells, any activity that would do us harm in this country.’
    • ‘That makes it easy for a small and secretive terrorist cell to go undetected.’
    • ‘The police claim the weapons belonged to terrorist cells and were seized in several raids across the Kingdom.’
    • ‘Those tracking terrorist cells say the trend toward soft targets, like schools, is undeniable and probably unstoppable.’
    caucus, unit, faction, arm, section, nucleus, clique, coterie, group, party, clan, wing
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  • 4A device containing electrodes immersed in an electrolyte, used for generating current or for electrolysis.

    • ‘This seven-ounce magnet was able to support four kilograms of iron using the current from a single cell.’
    • ‘In our study, we focus on oscillations generated in a single cell.’
    • ‘In addition to electrical conduction, the cells are polarized by the force of applied voltage.’
    • ‘Previous approaches to study the seal resistance of cells and electrodes lacked high spatial resolution.’
    • ‘These charged particles continue through the cell to the collecting area where they are attracted to a series of grounded plates.’
    • ‘Now there is a potential difference between the two cells allowing current to flow.’
    • ‘This is said to be important when welding heat-sensitive parts such as miniature battery cells or sensitive electronic devices.’
    • ‘For the experiments presented the capacity compensation was set with the electrode close to the cell.’
    • ‘The camera has a tiny light source, miniaturized transmitters, and power cells.’
    • ‘The copper tube is arranged to form a series of cells called cavities.’
    • ‘The 8.5g cell generates 100mW of power - enough, Toshiba said, to run am MP3 player for 20 hours.’
    • ‘A few years ago, the companies involved in the voltage race tried to get more cells in NiCad battery packs to power bigger tools.’
    • ‘An internal short can cause the battery cells to overheat, posing a fire hazard to consumers.’
    accumulator, power unit
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    1. 4.1A unit in a device for converting chemical or solar energy into electricity.
      ‘a button cell for a quartz watch’
      • ‘Another method of on-site power generation is the photovoltaic cell.’
      • ‘When light was shone on to the tiny cell, an electrical current was generated.’
      • ‘He suggested that China and California work together on hydrogen automobile fuel and solar energy cells.’
      • ‘It contains a fuel tank, and a chemical process occurs in the cell that generates electricity by using up the fuel, which is normally methanol.’
      • ‘Even on cloudy days, there is a lot of scattered radiation - and so PV cells generate energy even when it's overcast.’
      • ‘Other design factors of the current cell contribute significantly to overall performance.’
      • ‘Solar panels forming the roof of the crop store provide both heat and electricity from photovoltaic cells.’
      • ‘Most designs use photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight into electricity.’
      • ‘Chemical reactions inside the cell strip electrons from the hydrogen atoms to produce a voltage that can power a circuit.’
      • ‘Although Scotland has the brains to develop them, solar energy and hydrogen cells are all but ignored.’
      • ‘The design includes solar panels and photovoltaic cells which will create electricity and a heat pump which will distribute heat throughout the house.’
      • ‘Solar collectors can preheat feedstock, and solar photovoltaic cells can produce the electricity for the pumps.’
      • ‘Photovoltaic cells produce electricity by using specially treated materials such as silicon that convert light into power.’
      • ‘To achieve this, high efficiency heating would be used together with roof panels fitted with photo voltaic cells to provide electricity for the buildings.’
      • ‘However, sometimes the hydrogen is generated directly within the cell from another fuel, such as methanol.’
      • ‘Solar photovoltaic cells use the same silicon-based technology as semiconductors.’
      • ‘As it happens, the periods of intense heat correspond to the periods of peak electricity production from photovoltaic cells.’
      • ‘Photovoltaic cells powered an electric pump and light bulbs in Sweden.’
      • ‘Konarka says it will enter the market with a photovoltaic cell in late 2004 that will generate solar power at about $2 per watt.’
      • ‘The cells will generate electricity with cloud cover, rain, and even during a snowstorm, though not as much as they will in bright sun.’
  • 5The local area covered by one of the short-range transmitters in a cellular telephone system.

    • ‘The total area within these cells, determines the coverage of a network service provider.’
    • ‘The invention is directed to a method for cell selection in a cellular telecommunication system.’
    • ‘As the initiated say, in telecommunications lies not only cell and telephone issues but also broadcasting and now Internet.’
    • ‘The service operates in local areas known as cells.’
    • ‘In densely populated areas, there are more cells, which cover smaller distances, so it is easier to pinpoint the signal of a handset.’
    • ‘Analysis of mobile phone cells showed him heading north on the M1.’
    • ‘Mobiles located in areas of other cells and operating at the same frequency experience the effect of the tuning signal as an interference.’
    • ‘In cities, where mobile cells are quite small, this can locate the car to as close as 100 yards, but in rural areas the cell may be as big as six square miles.’
    • ‘And pagers tend not to jam up in emergencies the way overloaded mobile phone cells do.’
    • ‘Each cell has a base station that transmits and receives signals over just a small fraction of the frequencies to which the network operator has access.’
    1. 5.1North American A mobile phone.
      • ‘You'll be able to get a Coke from certain vending machines by pushing a button on your cell.’
      • ‘However, this time they would be used to test the Gb stack by simulating calls via virtual mobiles, cells and base stations.’
      • ‘Aziza hit the end button of her cell and groaned again, throwing her phone to the side.’
      • ‘I end the conversation and closed my cell, throwing it onto the passenger seat beside me.’
      • ‘Police seized cell phones and cell cards.’
      • ‘These new systems will be able to maintain a session even when a subscriber leaves a cell site or a device is turned off.’
      • ‘It lets you make and receive cell calls over a cordless phone and share that handset with a landline.’
      • ‘She was about ready to hit the ‘end’ button on the cell when she heard a clicking sound.’
      • ‘At the moment, mobile operators are almost all relying on cell ID as the means to automatically locate users.’
      • ‘I picked up the cell and pressed the button, waiting for what would come next.’
      • ‘I turned my back on him and walked on, fingering the 911 buttons on my cell.’


Old English, from Old French celle or Latin cella storeroom or chamber.